CSCOPE Secret Curriculum Killed in Texas
A controversial online curriculum used by more than 800 Texas School Districts was ditched by state lawmakers in May. Many wonder how CSCOPE statewide lesson plans, which were secret from parents and frequently controversial, came to be taught in Texas schools. Teachers relied on the curriculum for seven years.
CSCOPE was designed and marketed by State Education Service Centers, a nonprofit organization that sold the copyrighted curriculum to school districts. (CSCOPE is not an acronym, just a made-up term.) The curriculum and lesson plans were used to teach math, reading, science, and social studies. CSCOPE strictly organized each day’s classroom topics and provided scripted talking points for teachers.
In violation of state law, lesson plans were not available for parental or public review. This was allegedly due to copyright laws. Unlike the use of textbooks that parents can monitor, online content can remain secret. Parents were outraged when their children told them about some of the lessons taught. The tipping point came when Texans saw photos of schoolchildren wearing burkas and other traditional Islamic clothing.
Many teachers are pleased to see the end of CSCOPE, although it means developing alternative curriculum. One teacher told KLTV, “The need for college remedial courses will drop dramatically as CSCOPE lesson plans are removed.” (5-20-13) Many believe CSCOPE diluted student learning in favor of politically motivated activities and stifled teachers’ flexibility in classrooms.
Teachers were required to sign a nine-page nondisclosure form that prohibited them from discussing CSCOPE. Some teachers did speak out against the lesson plans, even resorting to leaking content and complaining at online chat rooms. One math teacher with a doctorate resigned after 40 years of teaching rather than use the CSCOPE material. He claimed that CSCOPE lessons “gutted a quarter of a typical [Algebra I] book’s content.” (Times Record News, 12-16-12)
After parents saw the alarming photos of high school students in Muslim garb posted on Facebook, a district spokesman explained, “The lesson encompassed diversity education so students receive a firm understanding of our world and why people are motivated differently.” There was no concurrent study of Christian or Jewish motivations in the social studies class or the CSCOPE curriculum. (Fox News, 2-25-13)
Another lesson plan equated the pre-Revolutionary War event commonly called the Boston Tea Party with terrorist attacks carried out by Muslim extremists, like those on Sept. 11, 2001. Although CSCOPE officials tried to distance themselves from this lesson, calling it “optional” and “discontinued,” the following narrative, which uses the word “terrorist” three times, was given to students who were afterwards told it described the Boston Tea Party:
A local militia, believed to be a terrorist organization, attacked the property of private citizens today at our nation’s busiest port. Although no one was injured in the attack, a large quantity of merchandise, considered to be valuable to its owners and loathsome to the perpetrators, was destroyed. The terrorists, dressed in disguise and apparently intoxicated, were able to escape into the night with the help of local citizens who harbored these fugitives and concealed their identities from the authorities. It is believed that the terrorist attack was a response to the policies enacted by the occupying country’s government.
Some in Texas are calling for a review of the operation and intent of Education Service Centers. The legislative action halted an investigation into CSCOPE curriculum that some feel should continue.
CSCOPE will remain an active online guide to Texas state-required K-12 skills, and includes a calendar showing when particular skills should be introduced. Only the curriculum aspect is discontinued.
Use of CSCOPE curriculum in schools sounds an alarm for parents to remain vigilant about what their children are being taught. Texas students were exposed to CSCOPE curriculum for years before outraged parents and citizens forced lawmakers to act.